This paper characterizes the influence of synoptic-scale air mass conditions on the spatial and temporal patterns of precipitation in North Carolina over a 16-year period (2003–2018). National Center for Environmental Prediction Stage IV multi-sensor precipitation estimates were used to describe seasonal variations in precipitation in the context of prevailing air mass conditions classified using the spatial synoptic classification system. Spatial analyses identified significant clustering of high daily precipitation amounts distributed along the east side of the Appalachian Mountains and along the Coastal Plains. Significant and heterogeneous clustering was prevalent in summer months and tended to coincide with land cover boundaries and complex terrain. The summer months were dominated by maritime tropical air mass conditions, whereas dry moderate air mass conditions prevailed in the winter, spring, and fall. Between the three geographic regions of North Carolina, the highest precipitation amounts were received in western North Carolina during the winter and spring, and in eastern North Carolina in the summer and fall. Central North Carolina received the least amount of precipitation; however, there was substantial variability between regions due to prevailing air mass conditions. There was an observed shift toward warmer and more humid air mass conditions in the winter, spring, and fall months throughout the study period (2003–2018), indicating a shift toward air mass conditions conducive to higher daily average rain rates in North Carolina.
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